How to Pick the Right Domain Name for your Business

Always be prepared. Always think ahead. Prepare for the future and you will always see success. If you’re prepared for the worst, then when “the worst” happens you’ll be prepared for it, when it does happen. Certainly preparing for something ahead of time will help. And when it comes to driving more traffic to your website later on, if you have chosen the right domain name then you will have a huge advantage over your competitors.

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I was the guest speaker on July 9, 2009 at Bido.com in their online chat area, come by and we can chat one on one about domain names and SEO.

Putting up a new website can be a daunting task. There’s the web design, the web development, picking the right shopping cart, writing great copy for your site. And then there’s the domain name. Never ever underestimate the power of the domain name. The domain name you use could quite possibly make or break your business. Choose the right domain name and it could be a very powerful asset. Choose the wrong domain name or “settle” for a less-than-ideal domain name and you could actually be sending traffic and even sales to your competitor.

Here is how pick the right domain name for your business: and stay away from picking the wrong domain name. If you already have a website and domain name, don’t fret; it’s not to late to revitalize your current business and ‘switch’ to the right domain name.

One Word that Describes Your Business
Before you even think of putting up a website for your business, start thinking about one word that describes your business. Okay, well it could be two words that describe your business. Let’s say, for example, that your business (or website) is a news website. What if you wrote about Domain Names. Well, wouldn’t the ideal domain name for your business would be DomainNameNews.com? That perfectly describes what people are going to get when they come to your website. What if you sell Gift Baskets? Wouldn’t something like GiftBaskets.com be the perfect domain name for you? Of course it would. Let’s look at one more example: what if you are a local business in Dallas, Texas and sell tack (tack typically includes items for horses and people who ride horses, like saddles, bridles, horse blankets, and soforth). Wouldn’t something like DallasTack.com be a good one to use for your business? If your business is “local”, then adding your city or State name along with your main keyword would be ideal. What I’m describing here is what is called the “category killer” domain name. There is only one, the main keyword that describes your business.

In many cases, the “category killer” domain names are all taken. Or at least someone ones it. You cannot just go do your favorite registrar and purchase it for the normal registration fee, typically about $10 per year. So, what do you do if your ideal domain name is taken? Consider if you are in a position to purchase it. Seriously: you must see if it is at all possible to purchase the domain name from it’s current owner.

Having the ideal or “category killer” domain name will have several benefits: it could potentially have “type in” traffic. Many people don’t use search engines, they just go to the web browser and type in a domain name. They think that they’re going to find exactly what they’re looking for when type it in: if they’re looking for toys, then they might go type in “toys.com”. If you have toys.com and you sell toys there, then you’ve already got the ideal customer: someone looking for what you sell. I could go on and on about this, perhaps in another blog post, but selling stuff online and being successful means that you need to target the people who are looking for what you’re offering. That’s one reason why we want to show up in the search engines for the main keywords that describe what’s on our website: like I mentioned before, if you sell gift baskets and you show up in Google for “gift baskets” then there’s a good chance that someone searching for “gift baskets” is going to purchase one.

Domain Names and Search Engine Optimization
I already mentioned the “type in” traffic that your ideal domain name could receive. But what does this ideal domain name have to do with showing up in the search engines for your main keyword? Well, if you have the keyword in your domain name then most likely the links from other websites pointing to your website will use that keyword to describe your domain name: they will use it in the anchor text that points to your website. You know, the text you click on to get to another website. Again, I could go into all sorts of reasons why it’s important to pay attention to anchor text, but I won’t right now. If you want more, then you might want to read about what I wrote a while back about anchor text.

Domain Names with Hyphens
So, ideally, you need to have your keywords in your domain name. Certainly there are options, though, and you could have a domain name like keyword1-keyword2.com that describes your business. And that would probably help your search engine rankings for “keyword1 keyword2″. But, keep in mind that if you are going to use keyword1-keyword2.com (a domain name with a hyphen) then you need to be aware that you are probably going to be sending visitors to keyword1keyword2.com. And if you don’t own that domain name (the one without the hyphen) then you’re going to be sending potential business (potential customers) to the person who owns the domain name without the hyphen. In an ideal situation, you would own both of the domain names, the one with the hyphen and the one without the hyphen. Let me give you a perfect example. When the search engines announced the “canonical tag” a few months ago, I went immediately and registered CanonicalTag.com and Canonical-Tag.com. I immediately put up a website about the Canonical Tag on CanonicalTag.com and within a few days I started ranking well in the search engines for that phrase. In fact, once I have maintained that search engine ranking in the top 10 for its phrase ever since.

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So What if my Ideal Domain Name is Taken
Like I said before, there’s a good chance that your ideal domain name is already taken or owned by someone. You have a few options. First, consider buying that ideal domain name. In fact, with pay per click prices typically over $1.00 per click, in the long run you might be saving money if you actually make an investment. There is a must-read recent article about domain acquisition here that my buddy Mark Jackson wrote. It will change how you think about acquiring domain names and your ideal domain name. But for now, let’s talk about acquiring the ideal domain name?

Here is what you do:
- Find out who owns it. Go to Domain Tools’ whois search and find out who owns that domain name. If you still are having trouble figuring out who really owns it, contact me and I can probably help track down the real owner. Many good domain names are owned by domain investors who tend to “hide” behind privacy services (I don’t blame them, I do it too).
- Ask if it’s for sale. Send an email to the current owner. But if you are really serious about it, call them on the phone. Find out how much they want for the domain name. If they won’t tell you a price, get a good idea of how much it is really worth.
- Get and idea of the domain’s value. Check Estibot.com which is an automated tool. Estibot is not a real domain name expert giving you their opinion on the value, but at least it will give you a starting point. Then go over to Dn Sale Price which allows you to see what similar domain names have sold for in the past. If you’re really lucky, you might actually find out what your domain name sold for in the past. This is a great site to do domain name price research.
- Make a reasonable offer. How much is reasonable? I would probably start at about 10-20 percent of the highest amount you would pay for the domain name and then start haggling. Many domain name owners/investors will not take your first offer: and they may even ignore you. Don’t give up. If you’re serious, then make a serious offer. In 99 percent of the cases, though, if you offer less than $100 than you’re probably not going to be taken seriously: you might even look foolish.
- Consider hiring a broker. There are many good domain name sales brokers out there. Consider hiring a domain name broker to represent you.
- Always use escrow. If you’re dealing with a significant amount of money (or any amount that you’re not willing to lose), then make sure that you use an escrow service and a domain name transfer agreement/domain name purchase agreement when buying the domain name. In other words, let a third part hold on to your money until you’re certain that you have ahold of the domain name: then release the money to the seller.

What if you Cannot Afford it
Yes, I know that you think you might not be able to afford it. Go back and read this if you have not read it. Consider financing the domain name. Domain Capital finances domain names. If you still are having doubts and just don’t think you can afford your ideal domain name, then try these things:
- Start searching for an aftermarket domain name. There are domain name auctions held online every day and even other domain name auctions that are help several times throughout the year in person. Several are held alongside the major domain name conferences, you might start by reading Domain Name Journal, they usually have all the information about upcoming domain name conferences and domain name auctions.
- Try using a domain name auction service. There are many “aggregators” out there that will help you search for a domain name by aggregating the online auction data into one place. I like Freshdrop.net, which will allow you to search many of the popular domain name auctions. I recommend that you pay their fee and sign up. To get the “good data” you need to agree to a monthly charge from these services, which will range from $20 per month on up. If you’re looking for a domain name, it might only take a few days or a few months, so paying this is not a big deal.
- Get more than one domain name. Even if you have to resort to buying a domain name that’s your company name (e.g., billhartzer.com or VizionInteractive.com or yourcompanyname.com), then keep in mind that you can purchase a domain name at a domain auction and redirect it to your current domain name. If you use a 301 Permanent Redirect to redirect that other domain name to your main domain name, you will pass on the value of the other domain name to your main domain name. So, if you were to get a brand new domain name and purchase other domain names that already have links (from other websites) and “PageRank Value” or “SEO Value”, you can pass on that value to your brand new domain name. I will talk more about finding domain names with “SEO Value” in a future blog post, so you might want to subscribe to my RSS feed to keep updated.

I was the guest speaker at Bido.com on Thursday July 9, 2009, where we talked about holidaygreeting.com. Please join us daily in their chat area and you’ll be able to chat with me one on one for an entire hour. If you don’t have an account, log on to http://www.bido.com/. Click “Register” on top right of screen. Once logged in, go to the page for the day’s auction. Click the blue “chat” tab located under the purple bar the reads “Next Auction: …”. Then click “login to chat”.